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HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Last week, legislation that puts an end to PennDOT’s bridge tolling plan was signed by Governor Wolf.
PennDOT began exploring bridge tolling as a transportation revenue option in November of 2020 via a Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative. Now, nearly two years later, they’re looking for other options.
You won’t see any tolls on the Interstate 83 bridge in Harrisburg, also known as the “South Bridge”, or any of the other eight bridges that were destined for tolling. Last week, PennDOT’s plan to use toll revenue for the re-construction of the nine bridges received its third and final strike.
“The third strike that hit bridge tolling last week was when the General Assembly reached a deal with the Governor’s office during the course of debating the final budget deal,” said Rebecca Oyler, President of the PA Motor Truck Association (PMTA).
Senate Bill 382, now Act 84 of 2022, shuts down the plans and makes changes to the P3 process, signaling a compromise between Gov. Wolf and lawmakers, who’ve been outspoken against tolling since the beginning, in order to finalize the budget.
But like many Pennsylvania roadways, PennDOT still has holes- in their budget. Hopes of patching those holes with tolls, now diminished.
“This wasn’t the way to do it. We have to go back to the drawing board, but we still have to come up with something,” said Gov. Wolf.
For those who’ve fought the plan from the start:
“This is a huge win. Tolling would have been disastrous for trucking in Pennsylvania, there’s no doubt about it,” said Oyler.
It’s not only a relief for Oyler and PMTA, but also for the municipalities who filed suits in Commonwealth Court, resulting in the first two strikes: a temporary injunction in May and then a permanent one in June.
Potential economic impacts, local traffic re-routing, and PennDOT’s process, all factors that ultimately led to the third strike.
“They were done sort of behind closed doors and weren’t open to the public or done in a very transparent manner at all,” said Oyler.
In the new state budget, $175 million from the motor license fund will be re-routed from the PA State Police to PennDOT to address road and bridge improvements. It’s not the number PennDOT needs, but it’s a small step in the right direction.
Even though State Police will receive less funding from the motor license fund, they’re expected to see a larger share of funding from the general fund.
The new budget is set to provide a total of just under $4 billion to road and bridge improvements.
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